Kanon 2002, the original anime

Introduction
I have always said that Kanon is my favorite anime. That’s Kanon 2006. I just came across an online set of the Kanon 2002 episodes. Very weird. They are the same, yet very different. Evidently, Key, the company that owns Kanon, licensed it to Toei Animation, who produced K2. Later, Key decided it was worth expanding on (or realized could be improved), and hired Kyoto Animation to do a remake. K6 was quite different, but I’m not sure it was a total improvement. This review assumes you have watched K6, and won’t mind the fact that it is riddled with spoilers. I mean real spoilers. To misquote Terry Pratchett, “all spoilers is spoilers, but some spoilers is spoilers“.

So, we begin. The artwork in K6 is obviously better. The art in Kanon 2002 is very 80’s looking, like, say Macross — very simple lines, not much in the way of background art, crude animation. Part of the crude look might come from watching a low resolution source, but the character art is still cartoony. Yuuichi, in particular, looks like something you would find in an art school ad — “Draw this Anime Boy!”


Since there are fewer episodes in K2 (fourteen, counting the OVA, vs twentyfour episodes in K6), the action has to be more compressed. I guess a better way to put it is that the longer runtime of K6 let the makers expand on the action and, theoretically, put more subtlety into it. It turns out that they didn’t always take advantage of the opportunity.

In some things, K6 is better than K2 — the tricks between Makoto and Yuuichi (kitchen surprise, fireworks, adult manga), for example, are given more time to develop. In other areas, K2 has clearer explanations. Yuuichi doesn’t want people to know he’s living with his cousin because it’s embarrassing to be living with a girl (K2), rather than unspecified (K6). Makoto drops the cat off the bridge because that’s what happens to strays that get taken in [subtext: like her, 7 years ago], rather than, again, unspecified (K6). Given that, in both these cases, it was a one-sentence explanation, I’m a little mystified why they were edited out.

Main Characters
The greater length of K6 lets the producers provide greater depth to the main character arcs.

Sawatari Makoto
Is the fox/girl who Yuuichi befriended years ago, and abandoned on the hillside. Her arc plays out pretty much the same in both renditions, except there’s a whole sub-arc added in K6 of her getting a job, and at the end Yuuichi performs an impromptu marriage ceremony, just before she disappears. In K6 we also get a longer look at her relationship with Yuuichi, and the gnomic pronouncements of Amano Mishio are worked into the flow of the story a little bit better. The denouement of her foxiness to Aunt Akiko is also handled better — it’s not just a couple of lines going out the door. [“Oh, yeah. She’s really a fox. I’m taking her to the hillside to die. When the ambulance gets here, tell them thanks.”] In K6 we also get to see the real Sawatari, for about half an episode. The OVA for K2 gives her spirit a farewell appearance in front of Mishio.

Kawasumi Mai
Yuuichi’s earlier relationship with Kawasumi Mai is explained better in K6, as is the fact that the monsters she fights in the school are generated by her in reaction to the monstrous construction equipment that tore up the field that she and Yuuichi played in to build the school. The K2 explanation leaves all of that out, and just asserts (based on Yuuichi’s brief glimpses of silent images of the past) that that’s the case. Also, the ballroom scene in K6 is much better done, and shows Yuuichi and Mai really dancing, really well, as opposed to the clunky animation in K2, with the spoken implications that neither one can dance. As looks to be a common difference, in K2 Mai has a one-sentence explanation for why she jumped off the school roof — she didn’t think jumping off the stairwell would give her enough force to kill the monster. In K6, it’s just what a magical monster-killing girl does. One interesting difference is that in K2, windows stay broken; in K6 it all magically disappears when the monsters are killed (unless you are at a ball).

Misaka Shiori
The sister of one of Yuuichi’s classmates, she is suffering from a typical anime-languishing-disease. The big difference between this story arc in K2 and K6 is that in K2 there’s no birthday party, although in both, the two of them spend her birthday night on the town. In K6, the birthday party is probably the highlight of the story arc. In both versions, we find later that she has miraculously recovered.

Tsukimiya Ayu — and these are really spoilers
Ayu-Ayu is Yuuichi’s long-lost love, and a spirit girl. She fell from a tree seven years ago and was killed, or maybe not, and this is what caused Yuuichi to suppress all memories of this period. K2 tells us that her spirit has been haunting the bench where they used to meet, K6 is silent on how she spent her time. In the antepenultimate dramatic peak of the story, she takes Yuuichi to see their ‘school’, the big tree she fell out of, finds it had been cut down, and disappears. In K2, she reappears briefly, to ask Yuuichi to forget her, and presumably is responsible for Aunt Akiko’s miraculous recovery. At the end, it turns out she wasn’t killed, has been in a seven year coma, and is waiting for Yuuichi to bring her the red hair band he had promised her. In the last episode of K2, Yuuichi, who has been carrying around the red headband, not remembering why he had it in the stuff he packed from home, learns that she is alive and in the hospital. He races there, gives it to her, and calls her name, which lets her wake up. The next scene is them on the park bench. In K6, he has to go find where he dropped it the day she fell, and she ends up in a wheelchair on her way to recovery — the way seven-year coma victims usually do.

Minase Nayuki
Yuuichi’s cousin, is in love with him, and he is totally oblivious to the fact. We see this more often and more directly in K2 than in K6, building to a climax where she declares her love right after Yuuichi loses Ayu and Aunt Akiko is hurt in the auto accident. At the end, she is reconciled to losing him, and it is she who tells him that Ayu is alive. In K6, Nayuki has an almost incidental arc, something like the Fujibayashi Kyō arc in Clannad.

Supporting Characters
The greater length of K6 also allows some of the supporting cast more backstory and deeper treatment, compared with K2.

Kurata Sayuri
Was voiced by Kawakami Tomoko, who died the week I started writing this. She has almost an entire episode devoted to her relations with her deceased little brother in K6, not mentioned in K2. On the other hand, the close relationship between Sayuri and Mai (on Sayuri’s part, bordering on yuri), shows up much better in K2, again, through the use of one or two well-placed sentences.

Minase Akiko
Aunt Akiko has about the same amount of screen time, proportionally, in both series. About the only difference is that K6 introduces her special jam.

Aunt Akiko's Jam

K2 puts Aunt Akiko to better use than K6. For example, she is out shopping with Yuuichi when he is accosted by Sawatari Makoto, and she’s the one who suggests they bring her home after she swoons.

Kitagawa Jun
Is one character that went downhill from K2 to K6. He’s a wisecracking, hair-dyed-blond, sidekick type, burning with unrequited love for Misaka Kaori. In the K2 version, he plays his part pretty straight, as a student much like Yuuichi. In the K6 version he’s begun to ham it up quite a bit, and by the time we see him in Clannad as Sunohara Yōhei he is way over the top.

Conclusions
There are things I like about both versions of the story, and there are things I dislike. I have the impression that K2 is closer to its harem game roots, such that each girl declares her love for Yuuichi, even though he ends up in love with Ayu. In K6, it’s more a matter of him befriending each of the troubled girls he runs into. Overall, I think that 14 episodes was too short for the stories they were trying to tell, and 26 episodes was too long. All the story arcs have some sort of fantasy/miracle aspect to them, and this came out well in both versions. Given how ephemeral the Internet is, I’d really like to have a ‘hard copy’ version of K2. As it is, I’ll just have to watch Kannon 2006, and let it remind me of what Kannon 2002 had to say. UPDATE: If you want a more detailed, ep-by-ep analysis of K2vK6, pop over to Blogsuki

For more of my anime reviews, click on the Anime tag below

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